Brooklyn-based, Asian American musician and composer OHYUNG’s music is continuously shifting, investigating, and deconstructing the possibilities of form. Written and recorded mostly over just a 72-hour period, OHYUNG’s first album on NNA Tapes, the immersive and mesmerizing, imagine naked! focuses on expansion and atmospheric depth. It is a collection of loving ambient expressions of persistence, repetition, and variation.
Each song is titled after a line from t. tran le’s poem, “Vegetalscape,” which acts as an artistic companion to the album. The poem works to spotlight little things that le imparts beauty upon despite the challenges of living with mental illness, such as a bedroom garden, or a sibling’s voice singing in the shower. OHYUNG’s engulfing, gentle landscapes take on the context of something more literary than their wordless atmosphere—each line feels as though it informs the timbre of its connected piece—and they reflect le’s poem as these snapshots of small items and instances, and brief melodies are appreciated and made beautiful beyond their size.
The music of imagine naked! is full and complex, each track using its time to articulate an entire spectrum of lived emotion with remarkable elegance and simplicity. Some of the songs revel in quiet magnificence: lead single “symphonies sweeping!” is the extension of a breathless instant, the moment between the orchestra’s end and the recognition of applause, as notes linger and hang in the air; “my hands hold flora!” begins as a low tone over a bleak, crackling background, but that gives way to something more bright and shimmering; the joyful and effervescent “i’m remembering!” is a kind memory, like recalling the details of a loved one’s face—an exuberance brought by clarity.
Other pieces seem to notice discomfort, like on “tucked in my stomach!,” which plays like a harsh self-reflection, emphasizing sharp, piercing tones. The melancholic piano notes on “yes my weeping frame!” fall over one another like a waterfall or a stream of tears. The title track, “imagine naked!,” is unencumbered by any additions, with somber drones that capture the vulnerability of being bare.
The final three songs close the album with a calming, sustained exhale. “philodendrons trail!” feels fresh and clean, and “oxalis unfold!” opens incrementally towards a warm light. The serene grand finale of “releases like gloves!’ (not included on the CD version) is entirely a world of its own—orange and purple sky, soundtracked by far-off refrains and the pressure of worry hissing away like steam.
On this album, OHYUNG shifts again, deliberately moving away from the experimental, electronic, hip-hop, and noise influenced work of their previous records, Untitled (Chinese Man with Flame), PROTECTOR, and GODLESS, and expanding on the space found in their work as a composer on films like Bambirak, which won the 2021 Short Film Jury Award for International Fiction at Sundance Film Festival, and the Gotham Award-nominated Test Pattern. By focusing on longer, more drawn-out, and textural compositions as an exercise in patience and as a means to cope with the difficult, oscillating new experience of time brought on by the pandemic, OHYUNG has found yet another new way to consider reality and feeling.
imagine naked! is humanist music that seeks to explore the mundane strangeness that defines our everyday and that breathes air, or purpose, or just some kind of color into ourselves and the people and the environment around us.